A Great Day in Chicago – Taking World Can’t Wait to the Warped Tour

By Lina Thorne 

The Chicago Chapter of World Can’t Wait went to the Warped Tour Saturday July 31, bringing our resistance movement to thousands of high school students and other youth attending this all-day outdoor music festival.
 
We had orange bandannas, t-shirts saying "Military Recruiters Get the Hell Away from Me," flyers and several large signs: one "Wrong Army Wrong" and another with a Botero painting from the Abu Ghraib series.
 
We also had a lot of energy (especially considering we were all operating on little sleep) and fire to make as many interventions as possible with youth who are prime targets for the military in their unending and insatiable appetite for young blood to convert into killing tools for the empire. Anthony Wagner from the Chicago Chapter also had his experiences to bring to bear from years as a combat veteran, including time served in military prison for resisting, and was ready and willing to bare his scars and role in Iraq to people in the hopes we could break more youth, troops and veterans into resistance and bring these crimes to a halt. 
 
This year will mark the 9th anniversary of the occupation of Afghanistan, not to mention the years in Iraq; with no end in sight. This means that the youth we talked to, predominantly aged 14 to 25, have grown up and come into their understanding of the world with war always raging in the background.
 
Many had never heard of Abu Ghraib and asked why we had the Botero painting up. One young man, looking to be about 18 years old told us he was about to join - and had always wanted to since 5th grade. When asked if he had ever talked to anyone like us, or even anyone at all besides a military recruiter about this desire, he said no... but these youth are absorbing the "be all you can be" message constantly throughout the culture, from teachers at school to the video games they play with and movies they watch. Another group of 16 yr. old women stopped at the table and asked us why we didn't support the war in Afghanistan.
 
These sentiments do NOT run deep with these youth though. With this group of women, for instance, we told them the war was unjust and immoral, that thousands of people are being killed and that should end as soon as possible. One woman asked, "but didn't they attack us?" We said, "Who is They?" When she was forced to consider that the thousands of Afghan people who have been killed by the US have nothing in common with the group of hijackers, mainly from Saudi Arabia who were responsible for the attacks 9 years ago, she quickly came out and said, "Why don't they TELL us this stuff on the news??"
 
When Anthony started talking about the need to ask why people around the world might hate us enough to carry out the 9/11 attacks, and how HE has less "freedom" after leaving the army than before he joined (post- vs pre- PATRIOT Act, for instance), the group of women signed up to bring the tour to their school. 
 
We walked through crowds with the huge Botero painting talking to people, flyering and signing people up - and looking for military recruiters. We didn't find them, but we did run into a VERY young man (looking to be about 17) walking around in a black Navy uniform. We challenged his decision to join this military and his answer was blunt and to the point: "I want money." Our answer: "Why not rob a bank? You probably won't kill anyone that way." 
 
Anthony, the vet, was on fire talking to anyone who told us they were considering joining, running down both the inhuman way soldiers are used as tools of empire and profit, as well as the immoral acts they would be called on to committ. "Why should your or my life be worth any more than people living in Iraq or Afghanistan? We are all human beings, no more, no less."
 
One young man told him he was planning on enlisting in the Marines shortly, but after the conversation was over, shook his hand and thanked him for changing his mind. He also bought a "Military Recruiters Get Away from Me!" shirt and one for his girlfriend too. Several other youth told us Anthony changed their mind about joining... and even more told us they would talk to their brother, cousin, friend or whoever they knew about to join and make them look at our website or watch the "Collateral Murder" video before they signed the paperwork.
 
One woman was very excited she ran into us because her brother was planning on signing the following day, so she still had time to get to him. We met vets and active duty guys too - including those who both wanted to join up and help talk to high school students about the truth of the war as well as those much more confused. We did not meet anyone willing to vigorously defend the wars though - not a single person would argue the wars are justified. 
 
Time passes quickly for teenagers, so the past year and a half that Obama has been president has gone by quickly. Those we asked about whether they thought Obama would stop the war or bring about positive change claimed they never believed the hype. Whether WE can do anything about it is another question. Mixed together was widespread confusion that seems to have been stirred up by the Tea Party phenomenon.
 
Several people told us that they didn't like Obama because he was a "socialist" and that the healthcare reform is bad because it's more "big government." One Latina woman told us she was against Obama's "stupid socialist healthcare" AND his criminalization of immigrants... a big muddle, considering the anti-Obama line that he's a "socialist" comes mainly from the fascists who claim he's way too soft on immigrants. Another guy said he'd be interested in what we were about but was afraid of all the "far left" groups that always seemed to be involved in the anti-war movement (you would think if he's interested in what we're doing maybe he should rethink the conclusion that the "far left" is too scary to look into further, but anyway...).
 
Another active duty guy in the Navy agreed the war was immoral, but in the course of explaining that he couldn't do anything about it, that Thomas Paine was right about everything, that the world is run through violence and power and there's nothing any of us can do about it, told us to "turn off CNN and start watching FOX." Again, this strange muddle, as people recognize elements of reality, but are confused and disoriented by the fascist talking heads constantly yelling - whether they watch it themselves like the Navy guy, or whether it seeps through other channels like the young Latina. 
 
Overall, it was a great day - we signed up lots of students for high school visits, changed some minds, and planted seeds of resistance. As I write this I've just listened to the Webcast about the new Wikileaks revelations. The comments from Matthis Chiroux and the others organizing resistance and protest in Kileen, TX at Fort Hood especially resonated with the experience at Warped Tour. Young people, whether enlisted or not, respond to radical messages about the war and need to hear us challenging them with the truth and true morality. As Bobby Whittenberg said, if truth is the first casualty of war, let's make war a casualty of truth!
Main Reports on Protest & Resistance A Great Day in Chicago – Taking World Can’t Wait to the Warped Tour

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.